Big Game jackpot estimated to break lottery record $300 million

ATLANTA- How much bigger can the Big Game get?

It depends on how much money people spend on tickets - and on whether anyone wins Tuesday's drawing.

The multistate lottery's jackpot has ballooned to a record of more than $300 million since Friday when no one picked all six numbers drawn. The largest U.S. lottery prize was $295.7 million, set two years ago in a multistate Powerball game that was won by 13 machinists from Westerville, Ohio.

''Now we're in uncharted water,'' Virginia Lottery executive director Penelope Kyle said Saturday.

The pace of ticket-buying for the next drawing picked up early Saturday at many locations in the seven Big Game states - Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey and Virginia.

In Virginia, lottery employees will be sent to help retailers cope with the ticket-buying crowds at the state's 10 to 15 largest sellers, Kyle said.

Lottery officials said Saturday it was difficult to estimate the eventual jackpot for Tuesday's Big Game drawing, which might be raised after lottery officials from the seven Big Game states confer Monday morning.

The top prize for Friday's drawing had been estimated at $230 million after eight weeks without a winner. More than 122 million tickets were sold from 11 p.m. Tuesday to 11 p.m. Friday, exceeding estimates of 118 million.

Georgia Lottery Corp. President Rebecca Paul said she was surprised by the Big Game's sales.

''We had anticipated the jackpot would approach $200 million, but we never thought it would go over $200 (million), much less $300 million,'' she said.

Lottery directors were surprised no one had Friday's winning combination of 6-8-16-30-32 plus a Big Money Ball of 26. Sales records showed that 70 to 75 percent of the possible combinations had been covered, officials said, and combinations of such low numbers often are won because many players use anniversary dates or birthdays.

''We watched the drawing and they were all low numbers and we thought we'd have about 10 winners,'' Kyle said. ''These were winnable numbers, not bizarre numbers.''

Forty-three second-prize winners did win $150,000, and 355 players matched four of the five lotto numbers plus the Big Money Ball number for $5,000.

New Jersey sold the most tickets - 33.95 million, primarily due to the huge populations in adjacent New York City and Philadelphia, Kyle said. Georgia and Illinois sold just over 21 million tickets each.

''We have so many people playing across the country,'' she said. ''People can fantasize about the $300 million, but I believe there will be several matching tickets.

''This thing's not going on any longer.''


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